Part 14 of a series analyzing the Brooklyn Nets.
Theo Pinson went from the disappointment of going undrafted in 2018 to the step-by-step climb of earning a multi-year NBA contract with the Nets after his rookie season.
Pinson was the perfect teammate in many ways. But now after a disappointing season — in which he was hamstrung by playing out of position before play was halted by the coronavirus — Pinson’s future is up in the air. Much like the 2019-20 campaign.
Yes, Pinson is just in the first season of a two-year, $3.14 million contract. But if the coronavirus pandemic abates enough for this season to resume at some point this summer — and president Donald Trump spoke with league commissioners Saturday about just that — the Nets have some tough calls to make.
And Pinson could be part of those hard roster decisions.
Chris Chiozza has been a pleasant surprise, not only exceeding all reasonable expectations with his play, but perfectly filling the much-needed role as a backup point guard into which the Nets unsuccessfully tried to shoehorn Pinson. But there isn’t enough room for both.
Following a conference call with various league commissioners, President Trump told reporters, in reference to those leagues: “They gotta get back. They can’t do this.” NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke of a possible return once there’s an “all clear” from public health officials, according to ESPN.
If and when that happens, the Nets would likely want to use Chiozza in the playoffs, but to do so they’d have to convert him from a two-way player to a standard NBA deal. That would necessitate creating a roster spot for the 24-year-old, which would require waiving somebody.
Pinson would be the most likely casualty, a tough one for the immensely popular second-year pro from North Carolina.
After not being selected in the 2018 draft, Pinson got picked up on an Exhibit 10 contract. He did enough in Las Vegas Summer League and training camp to earn a two-way contract.
He was essentially limited to the G-League, making just 18 NBA appearances as a rookie. He was the consummate teammate and role player, and was rewarded with a two-year deal this offseason.
But long-term injuries to Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert left Pinson overexposed and in a tough spot. After having been a Swiss Army knife as a collegian and rookie (logging just 4 percent of his 2018-19 minutes at point guard, per Cleaning The Glass), Pinson was asked to run the Nets’ second unit and to be Spencer Dinwiddie’s lone backup for much of the season.
Pinson’s shooting (29 percent), 3-point percentage (18.8) and offensive rating (81) all took steps back from his rookie season. His offensive rating was the worst in the NBA for players who topped 20 appearances on Basketball Reference.
Even if he isn’t a roster casualty, or if the season doesn’t resume, Pinson could find himself on the move in the offseason. He was mentioned by Bleacher Report as a part of a potential package (along with Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince and a first-round pick) to try to land Kings sharp-shooter Buddy Hield.